Yemen tightens airport security, frees woman
By SAEED AL-BATATI | ARAB NEWS
Published: Nov 1, 2010 23:42
SANAA: Yemen announced Monday a crackdown on cargo shipments from the country and tighter security measures at its airports after two bomb parcels originating in the country were found on aircraft bound for the United States over the weekend. Germany said it is suspending passenger flights from Yemen a day after it banned all air freight from the country.
Yemen also said 14 Al-Qaeda militants surrendered to authorities in the southern province of Abyan on Sunday following “persistent efforts and mediation” by tribal elders. Five top Al-Qaeda members were among those who gave themselves up in the Modia and Loder districts, Saba News Agency reported.
In the capital Sanaa, police released Sunday night Hanan Al-Samawi, who was suspected of involvement in the plot to send the mail bombs to the US. The authorities said she had been a victim of identification theft. Police are now looking for a girl who delivered the two packages to American freight companies UPS and FedEx in Sanaa.
The Yemen National Committee for Civil Aviation Security approved stricter security measures at airports. At a meeting headed by the minister of transport and security, the committee endorsed carrying out more stringent checks on packages going out of Yemeni airports to guarantee the safety of passengers and cargo.
Qatar Airways, which confirmed that one of the packages that contained explosives was carried aboard one of its aircraft from Sanaa to Dubai via Doha, said that, as per the Chicago Convention, it is not the responsibility of the country through which the cargo transits to X-ray or inspect it. “This responsibility belongs to the country from where the consignment originates.”
The explosives discovered were of a sophisticated nature whereby they could not be detected by X-ray screening or trained sniffer dogs. The explosives were only discovered after an intelligence tip-off, the airline said in a statement.
The tip-off was provided to the Saudi authorities by Jabir Al-Faifi, a militant who surrendered last month, a Saudi newspaper reported. The daily cited Saudi security officials as saying that the Kingdom gave US investigators the tracking numbers of the packages that led to their detection and timely interception.
Meanwhile, teams of US anti-terrorism and security experts are headed to Yemen to help search for suspects in the bomb plot and to train cargo screeners at the Sanaa airport.
White House Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan told Yemen’s president on Sunday that his country has the lead in responding to the terrorists, according to a top Yemeni official.
The brief phone conversation between Brennan and President Ali Abdullah Saleh came as Brennan led a team of national security and intelligence officials in a second day of meetings assessing the best options in striking back at the Al-Qaeda offshoot suspected of trying to mail the cargo to the US. Officials say the powerful bombs containing industrial-grade explosives may have been aimed at bringing down the planes.
— With input from agencies
© 2010 Arab News
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